New Florida Law Bans Texting While Driving – But Only a $30 Fine If You’re Caught: Feel Safer from Distracted Driver Car Crashes, South Florida?

Posted By on November 12, 2013

Last Update: 01/27/16

Distracted driving causes serious car crashes and traffic accidents where people die — it is shocking to consider how someone driving along, using their smart phone to text while they are driving (even at a relatively slow speed and in a known area or roadway), can blindly collide with someone in another car, on a bicycle, or just walking along as a pedestrian, resulting in a tragic death of an innocent crash victim.

distracted driving, public domain image

In the Houston suburb of West University Place, texting while driving is absolutely banned (unlike Florida).

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, statistics show that of the U.S. drivers between the ages of 15 – 19 years old involved in fatal crashes, 21 percent (21%) of the distracted drivers were distracted by the use of cell phones.

What’s happening here? These tiny distractions are more serious than most people realize. 

It doesn’t seem like much to look down to check a smartphone screen for a short text, but it is a big deal.  When someone sends or gets a text on their cell phone, it takes that driver’s eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds, and while that doesn’t seem like much time, looking down for 4.6 seconds is the same as a blind person driving a car at 55 mph the length of a football field.

So, it’s not a big surprise that the State of Florida has joined with other states across the country to pass a law that prohibits distracted driving (texting while driving). In fact, according to a study done on behalf of the Florida safety gurus at the Florida Department of Transportation, 64% of those Floridians who answered a safety survey identified distracted driving as a real traffic safety problem here in Florida.

The new Florida Ban on Texting While Driving Law appears as Florida Statute 316.305 and states as follows:

(3)(a) A person may not operate a motor vehicle while manually typing or entering multiple letters, numbers, symbols, or other characters into a wireless communications device or while sending or reading data 1on such a device for the purpose of nonvoice interpersonal communication, including, but not limited to, communication methods known as texting, e-mailing, and instant messaging. As used in this section, the term “wireless communications device” means any handheld device used or capable of being used in a handheld manner, that is designed or intended to receive or transmit text or character-based messages, access or store data, or connect to the Internet or any communications service as defined in s. 812.15 and that allows text communications. For the purposes of this paragraph, a motor vehicle that is stationary is not being operated and is not subject to the prohibition in this paragraph.

Notice that this arguably does NOT outlaw using your phone to text while stopped at a traffic light. Why not? A car that is stopped at a traffic light is “stationary” and “not subject to the prohibition.”

Punishment Under the New Florida Texting While Driving Law

As for what happens when someone in Florida is caught texting while driving, here is the new law’s punishment:

(4)(a) Any person who violates paragraph (3)(a) commits a noncriminal traffic infraction, punishable as a non-moving violation as provided in chapter 318.
(b) Any person who commits a second or subsequent violation of paragraph (3)(a) within 5 years after the date of a prior conviction for a violation of paragraph (3)(a) commits a noncriminal traffic infraction, punishable as a moving violation as provided in chapter 318.

Now, the Florida Legislature took the time to include the following language in this statute, so everyone is clear on the intent of the Florida lawmakers who passed this law:

(2) It is the intent of the Legislature to:
(a) Improve roadway safety for all vehicle operators, vehicle passengers, bicyclists, pedestrians, and other road users.
(b) Prevent crashes related to the act of text messaging while driving a motor vehicle.
(c) Reduce injuries, deaths, property damage, health care costs, health insurance rates, and automobile insurance rates related to motor vehicle crashes.
(d) Authorize law enforcement officers to stop motor vehicles and issue citations as a secondary offense to persons who are texting while driving.

The question is, how effective will this new Florida Distracted Driving Law be when the punishment for being caught (for the first time) is a mere $30.00 fine?  Consider this: in many states, using your phone while driving your car is BANNED. Period.

What Should You Do Now?

A good piece of advice if you have been harmed in a car accident, is to at least speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer before you file a claim to learn about some of the issues that can arise with these claims, including the type of evidence needed to prove a claim and the type and amount of damages you can recover. Most personal injury lawyers, like Alan Sackrin, will offer a free initial consultation (over the phone or in person) to answer your questions.

Related:

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Do you have questions or comments? Then please feel free to send Alan an email or call him now at (954) 458-8655.

 

 

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